IBC Q&A: Blackmagic Design’s Simon Westland discusses Fairlight acquisition

bmd_simon_westland-296x300IBC 2016 has been characterised by a wealth of notable acquisitions, not least by Blackmagic Design, which has announced its purchase of both keying specialist Ultimatte and pro-audio veteran Fairlight. The second acquisition is particularly interesting given Fairlight’s challenging trajectory in recent years: it has changed hands several times while attempting to revise its business model, including development of its presence in the live-entertainment market.

Now, as part of the Blackmagic Design family, Fairlight looks set for a long-awaited resurgence, as director of sales EMEA Simon Westland told SVG Europe.

Fairlight has had an up-and-down history in recent times, but the technology behind the brand has always seemed to be very solid. How do you see it fitting into the Blackmagic Design portfolio?
We see it the same way as you do in terms of the core technology and the quality of the Fairlight product, always being maintained. It is a quality-first product, and [it is notable in the fact that it is] our first professional-audio solution. We see it as being a good fit on several levels, not least because it has a position as a solution specifically for film and TV, [including] live broadcast, live transmission, production, and post — areas in which we are already present.

For example, on the live side, we have the ATEM [production switcher], which is used universally across broadcast and live events. On post, we have Resolve, which is used for high-end finishing and delivery of feature films, commercial programmes, and episodic TV programmes.

Post of audio and live-presentation audio are strong opportunities for Fairlight products, so it isn’t a departure in any sense [for us]. The brand is complementary to areas in which we are already active.

Did you think about developing your own pro-audio solution range instead of acquiring another company?
We always look very carefully at any product area to see if one can grow it organically from within our areas of expertise or develop it through acquisition. [In this case,] I am not sure it is easy to shortcut 40 years of R&D, plus we have acquired not just Fairlight IP, hardware and software, but also top-flight engineers like [CTO] Tino [Fibaek], who is so much the heart and soul of product development and will be a key component in moving that forward.

How do you see the immediate outlook for Fairlight?
The [purchase was] completed only in the last few days, but this weekend is actually massively important in terms of starting a process [of discussion] with our customers. What we have here is five days of talking to them to find out what they want [and] where they think Fairlight is weak and strong, and identify which changes need to be introduced and where the product would be used. So it will be really informative.

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